Big Data in Shipping is the next big revolution. It is not for nothing that Big Data has taken businesses by storm globally. Big data has influenced sectors like finance, healthcare, banking, etc. It is now gearing up to influence the shipping industry too.
But, what is big data? And how is it relevant to the shipping industry? Here’s everything you would want to know about it.

What is Big Data?

Oxford dictionary defines Big Data as “sets of information that are too large or too complex to handle, analyze or use with standard methods”.

But, before understanding the term and its technicalities, let us first understand how the world used to collate data before the innovation of Big Data. So, there’s a traditional data and there’s a non-traditional data – based on the area from where the data is sourced.

Traditional data is collected from various conventional sources and systems such as warehouses, distributing nodes, ships, dockyards, etc. – which includes commuting expenses, fuel costs, wages, insurance, transit time, etc. It usually remains fixed and used to calculate the profits or losses.

Non-traditional data is subject to time and keeps changing, like weather, traffic delays, unexpected repairs, etc. – which is sometimes quantifiable and sometimes not. Information comes from various sources and formats like texts, audios, videos, images, etc.

Now, comes Big data! It combines both of these sources, draws patterns from that data and creates a cloud-based database – a type of centralized system under which everything is stored, analyzed, and procured later. In simpler terms, big data is like a big cloud with a constant influx of huge volumes of data coming from various sources, traditional or non-traditional. By correlating the available information, big data determines the hidden patterns to make real-time predictions. “The analysis of this big data is extremely useful as it allows businesses to uncover hidden patterns, unknown correlations, ambiguities, market trends, and other useful information.”

Big Data has touched industries ranging from finances, telecom, healthcare, banking, etc. However, it is not that prominent in the shipping industry. But, big data and disruptive shipping go hand-in-hand. Why? Because an industry that is mainly dependent upon natural factors could profit big time with the innovation that Big Data is. How? Read on…

big data in shipping

The Relevance of Big Data in the Shipping Industry

“An imaginable potential is concealed in big data” – Hauke Schlegel, Maritime Sector Expert

The shipping industry is a complex system of transportation. It is subject to the forces of nature. Thus, it requires you to adapt to changing situations and act fast. This means taking impromptu decisions while also considering innumerable parameters. As they say, nobody can predict what the waters may show or how the weather may change.

Good news! Now we can. With Big Data!

As ships travel over the seas, they generate data from different sources and in several formats. This inflow of data from the shipping industry is collated and organized in a cloud-based system. The big data tools then analyze this data and offer endless possibilities.

big data code

How Big Data benefits the Shipping Industry?

We can go on and on about how Big Data can benefit the shipping industry. Here are listing some of them:

1. Eliminate Intuition and Promote Better Decision Making
– Due to the availability of relevant information at the right time, companies would have better control over their business strategy and improve their overall performance.
– As all the information would be brought under one cloud with big data, making the calculation is easier. The information aids in making structured decisions based on a solid backup of available data. Nothing is left to chance.

2. Accurate Predictive Analysis
– historical weather data is analyzed and based on the findings, extreme weather conditions can be avoided. This would help to steer clear of costly problems like loss of ships or container damages.

3. Efficient Vessel Operations
– Through big data, businesses can obtain real-time information by GPS and RFID tags, which helps locate containers, lost ships, or any problem related to the shipment. This would even increase the safety and security of the vessels at sea.
– Using effective communication, networking, and big data, the ship operations can be synchronized for reaching harbors. This would also lead to lesser logistics space as everything can be scheduled.
– You can even reroute the ships in case of an emergency, non-availability of the harbor, or inform them about terminal allocation, well in advance, so the ships can plan their route and speed accordingly.

4. Automate Operations
– Remote functionality in various subsystems like climate control, desalination, etc. can enable experts on land to read ship’s data at sea and command them accordingly, without the need for a human.
– Companies often try to bring down their expenses by reducing onboard crew, increasing load capacity, reaching harbor earlier than scheduled, etc. But, with findings from big data, these can be kept under check and even put on automation.

5. Huge Boost in Profits
– With automation through big data, businesses could save up to 10% of the costs (which it offers to crew members). Costs can further be slashed by unmanned shipping.
– Making the journey smoother for the ship directly results in increased efficiency. With better energy management and reduced fuel consumption, the profits of the company would scale high.

6. Controlling Carbon Dioxide Emissions
– According to the findings, shipping is responsible for around 3% of global carbon emissions. This is mainly due to fuel consumption. But, with reduced fuel use, CO2 emissions would also be controlled.

7. Improve Architectural Decisions
– Data gathered from the sensors on the ships can be used to highlight the faults in a vessel and improve the architectural designs for the future.
– By merging the big data with Artificial Intelligence, testing the proposed models can be carried out without building the ships physically – saving funds, time, and resources.

container damage inspection

Big Data Applications in the Shipping Industry

Several sea posts around the world are implementing this technology and reaping its benefits.

Ports in Singapore and Malaysia have applied big data to assess the history of cargo types of importers to create advanced inspection systems. This has helped them to segregate importers that require deeper scrutiny – enhancing dock’s security. The Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) of Singapore had even signed an MoU with IBM for big data. It aimed to develop a platform that could predict vessel arrival times, estimated traffic congestion at the port using fusion analytics. This would improve their productivity and marine safety.

The Port of Cartagena, Columbia uses big data for IoT analytics. This helps them predict equipment failures well in advance, and keep their machinery updated.

The Hamburg Port in Germany uses a cloud-based analytics tool called SmartPort Logistics, which helps regulate vessel operations on a mobile application with real-time data.

Due to the pre-planning and scheduling of ships, their routes, expected dock time, etc., managing the traffic has become more efficient and the flow of work is streamlined. Big Data has huge potential and the shipping industry has only just started leveraging it. That being said, the availability of so much data is also susceptible to misuse and cyber threats – which calls for increased cybersecurity. This brings us to our next section


Is Big Data Completely Safe?

We are dealing with data here. Big Data. With so much of data being collected and collated, it also increases the exposure to information. And there is no denying that the data is open to cyber threats. With data being uploaded constantly, the industry has to ensure network security to prevent any breaches. Securing this data, thus, becomes important to build trust in the system and continue its usage.

Having said that, big data is like any other data in cloud storage, varying in volume and variety. By effectively protecting the available data, and avoiding breaches in cybersecurity, big data is fairly safe where data can be collected, analyzed, and used.

big data in shipping discussion

Is Big Data here to stay in the Shipping Industry?

Did you know that the shipping industry fulfills 90% of the commercial demands globally?

Further advancements in the world would lead to an increase in demand and supply of goods. This would need maximum efficiency and time-management by the shipping industry. By leveraging the power of big data and advanced data-processing techniques, the shipping industry is geared towards becoming more efficient and thus, increased trade – directly influencing the global economy.

We are fast approaching the next era of shipping, where data would be power and automation would take over. With data being collected from ships in real-time, there would come a time when the ships could be controlled by remote-controls. Currently, only some marine companies are leveraging big data.

“Big data remains untapped in the shipping industry, therefore there are huge opportunities for innovation, usage, driving optimal performance, and leveraging assets better.” Anwar Siddiqui, Advisor to the CEO of Bahri.

Knowledge is power. Businesses are coming to realize the importance of leveraging data in daily operations. The first step is to decide the goal that you want to achieve – reduce costs, optimize transit time, or increase efficiency – and utilize big data to achieve them. As the distances become shorter, the world transforms into an oyster, Big data is that technology which
links everything.

Big data has some big potential. And it is here to stay.